EDITORIAL: Smile for the cameras

Steve Wolfson will never be confused with JoJo Fletcher, but the Clark County district attorney has also made his mark in the genre of “reality” TV.

Mr. Wolfson and his office are the centerpiece of “Las Vegas Law,” which appears on the Investigation Discovery cable channel. The series — “real crime, real evidence, real justice” — aired six times earlier this year. And while its modest viewership paled in comparison to the 8 million Americans who tuned in to see Ms. Fletcher on “The Bachelorette,” the series has still been renewed for a second season.

But some local attorneys remain none too happy about it. During the first season, at least one defense lawyer complained that prosecutors were more reluctant to plea bargain thanks to the show, a charge Mr. Wolfson denied. And now the show is generating more controversy.

On Monday, District Judge Valerie Adair opted to let crews from My Entertainment TV — which produces “Las Vegas Law” — into her courtroom as part of an episode involving the 2013 killing of a local high school student. Public defenders for the 24-year-old defendant immediately appealed her decision to the Nevada Supreme Court.

“First, and most obvious, is its name,” wrote defense lawyers JoNell Thomas and Robert Arroyo. “the company is not called ‘My News’ or ‘My Media.’ It defines itself as ‘My Entertainment,’ and its title should be believed.”

The attorneys do have a point. So-called reality television is usually nothing of the sort and instead represents a cynical fusion of manipulation and exploitation.

But the fact that My Entertainment TV’s cameras aren’t shooting footage for the evening news doesn’t mean the company’s production is devoid of informational or educational value. Shows such as “Las Vegas Law” — regardless of their slant — at least depend upon facts and actual events while perhaps even offering viewers a unique perspective on law enforcement and the judiciary.

Ms. Thomas and Mr. Arroyo have a different perspective. They argue that the show “makes a mockery of our criminal justice system” and “encourages” prosecutors to act inappropriately. In fact, one could just as easily argue that having cameras trailing prosecutors and police can help keep them on their best behavior. At any rate, if the defense attorneys have any evidence that the show’s spotlight threatens their client’s right to a fair trial, they are free to present it.

The fact is, the producers of “Las Vegas Law” are being held to the same rules and standards as any media outlet when it comes to courtroom access. And as long as that’s the case, Judge Adair’s ruling should withstand scrutiny upon appeal.

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